You will no doubt have seen or heard the media reporting on the Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies’ address to Synod last week. In the view of the vast majority who were actually there, it was a brilliant piece of theological reflection that captured the Spirit of our age and the need for the Gospel to continue to go out into a lost world.
You would think, however, if you simply listened to the media, that Glenn asked anyone who thinks differently to the Bible on human sexuality to leave the church. Nothing could be further from the truth – but if you want to win an argument, you don’t focus on the truth or context of things that are said!
A month or two ago I wrote about the polarising tendency of 21st Century argumentation. We often find ourselves being forcibly isolated into camps such that on any question it is not truth or context that matters but whose side you are on. For this reason, on the matter of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the Bible, whatever Glenn said, he was going to be lambasted. The way to win an argument in this day and age is not to reason, think, deliberate, consider, ask questions and weigh merits; instead you misquote, pigeon-hole, garner the troops and call people names.
You don’t need thought because you have decided a priori that every other view is wrong.
As an Anglican Synod, we try not to do that. In fact we were urged throughout the week to read, think, consider, weigh up and look at the merits of all arguments around human sexuality. We were all given a book to read containing opposing views.
Despite what you may have heard, Glenn’s address did not urge dissenters in the pews to leave the church. Glenn did not urge anyone with a different view to leave any Sydney Anglican church. But he did urge Anglican leaders who have abandoned the long held truths of the Anglican Church to leave the Anglican Church and start a new church. You can read the whole speech for yourself (www.sds.asn.au) and you will see this clear as day. But the truth of what is said does not matter in arguments anymore. In this day, you win an argument by lambasting the person not their argument.
So what’s the point? Just imagine that the Victorian branch of Greenpeace or Extinction Rebellion started arguing that pouring a little bit of crude oil into the ocean is fine and that more coal fired power stations should be built. I’m pretty sure they would be kicked out of their organisations pretty quickly. This is exactly what is happening in the Anglican Church. Leaders in Wangaratta, Perth and Newcastle are arguing against numerous basic principles held by the Anglican Church and claiming they can stay in that same Church. And the media says Glenn is the bad guy!
At the heart of this whole question is the way you understand the Bible. Does it contain eternal principles for the way we should understand ourselves and God? Or does it contain an expression of the way humanity viewed itself and God, such that we need to find a new expression for this day and age? If God has spoken, are we not to listen?